Here’s the real reason Donald Trump didn’t wear a mask in public in Arizona

In the pictures of the incident, Trump did not wear a mask. During the visit to a mask-producing plant. And contrary Center for Disease Control and Prevention that all people use "cloths in public areas where other social distance measures are difficult to maintain (such as grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas with significant community-based transmission."

But he insisted Wednesday that he was actually wearing a mask during his visit to Arizona – but not when the cameras were around.

"I had a mask on for a while," Trump said in the Oval Office Wednesday. "I had it on the back – backstage. But they said you don't need it, so I don't need it. And by the way, if you noticed, no one else had it on the group that was in the group."


There is SO much going on in that quote.

The insistence that he was wearing a mask – you just didn't see it! And it's not his fault! (According to a spokesman for Honeywell, Trump was allowed not to wear a mask.)

But the really telling part of the quote is Trump's use of "backstage" to describe where he wore a mask. As in, when he walked on stage – meaning, in this context, where there were TV cameras rolling and photographers taking his picture – he didn't have the mask.


Which raises a simple question: Why? After all, if he had one at some point, why not just leave it as a way to model the right behavior for the audience?

I have answers!


Remember that Trump is looking at his entire presidency through the lens of television – mostly reality TV and cable news. He is very, very focused on how he is portrayed and perceived. And he wants the image that the audience gets of him to be a strong and fearless leader.

Which in his mind does not include masks when on stage.

Remember what Trump said he would use a mask when announcing the new CDC mask guidelines in mid-April: "I don't think I'm going to do that. … Wear a face mask when greeting presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens – I just don't see it."

So, wearing a mask is fine, in Trump's mind, when you're on stage. But that's not the kind of thing he does when people, you know, actually watch.

Politicians – not just Trump – are a vain species. They will look the best they can at all times. That is why there is an unwritten rule in politics that no candidate should ever wear any kind of hat or headgear in public if they can avoid it. (Thanks, Michael Dukakis!)

The problem? We are entering a period – with several states reopening even if the coronavirus continues to infect 30,000+ people a day nationally – where being masked in public settings may be our best defense against a new wave of the virus.

With that in mind, it might be nice for Trump to wear one – especially as mask wear has become increasingly political.

But Trump is not coming to that. Why? For he will not.


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